Album: DMX

The Great Depression, Def Jam
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The Independent Culture

Nowhere is the windfall potential of pop better represented than in hip hop, where vast fortunes can be made with minimal effort in a matter of months. Take Ruff Ryders' main man DMX, here delivering his fourth album in two years, the previous three having earned him a whopping 18 million sales and the unique distinction of having two albums debut at No 1 in the LP charts in the same year. His rise may not be entirely unconnected with 2Pac's demise, DMX boasting a similarly gruff, barking delivery, confused moral viewpoint and chippy attitude – although the latter is admittedly mandatory throughout the genre. Opening with a poem about the perpetual doubt of modern life, The Great Depression is a familiar mix of irresponsible gang-banging anthems ("I'm a Bang"), ghetto tableaux ("School Street"), peer-group bravado ("We Right Here"), sexual mistrust ("Shorty Was da Bomb") and, er, affectionate reminiscences about DMX's old switch-wielding granny ("I Miss You"), capped – so to speak – with a prayer that, given his shameless assertions of criminality, might be considered pushing his luck. But there's no doubting the skill and artistry of DMX's delivery, particularly impressive on "Who We Be", in which the long list of illustrative nouns is barked out tersely, like short bursts of machine-gun verbiage, the closest rap equivalent to James Ellroy's repetitive three-word sentence sprays – and about as hyperbolically violent, too.